Chapter 35 — The Court of Public Opinion
”The mundane will never coexist with the awakened. I do not mean to sound the pessimist, but the non-magical people simply cannot comprehend the paradigm shift that took place in the shadows of their world. They will adapt and awaken, or they will perish. There is no middle ground.
Let me be clear: I advocate for no violent uprising, no revolution. The dawn of the world need not be bloody. I would welcome anyone who seeks to awaken. No, I trust that the bloodshed will make itself plain as soon as we emerge. There will always be those who resist change, and resistance will always increase with the rate of such change.
We represent a complete overthrow of all human understanding, the beginning of a new world order, so I wonder—how many will survive the transition?”
~Cinza, the Rallsburg Diaries
Riley twisted around, pistol rising—but Hailey flung her hand out, and the gun ripped itself out of Riley’s hand. Hailey caught it out of mid-air, her hair fluttering behind her as she glared down into the room from atop the rubble of her makeshift entrance.
Disarmed, Riley took a few steps back, raising her hands. “I have insurance,” she repeated, but suddenly her tone wasn’t quite so confident. “You cannot ha—”
Hailey burst into motion. She launched off of the little plinth of broken concrete straight through the small room, a gust of wind accompanying her short flight. Her foot slammed into Riley’s chest, knocking her to the floor in a gasping heap.
”That’s from Alden,” Hailey growled.
”The fuck?” said Jeremy. Seeing the opening, Cinza hurried forward to untie Lily, while Riley lay heaving on the stone floor. “Hailey, what the hell are you doing here?”
”Trying to find her,” said Hailey, nodding at Riley. “I’ve never met Malton, and her essence was easier to track than Viper’s.”
”Nikki taught you… of course she did,” said Cinza, shaking her head in dismay. She helped Lily to her feet, both shaking a little. Makoto quickly moved to support the pair, since the height disparity between the two made Cinza’s efforts mostly useless.
Lani finally snapped out of his stupor and rushed over to Riley, holding his own gun to her head. “Who are you, Riley?” he asked, his voice cracking with emotion.
Jeremy winced. He’d never heard someone sound so defeated. Riley stared back up at him without a word.
Hailey shook her head. “Her name’s not Riley. It’s not ‘Rook’, either, but that’s a codename she goes by. Her name is Tessa.”
”…Tessa?” asked Lani, glancing back down at her.
Riley shook her head. “Another given name.”
”So what the fuck should we call you?” asked Jeremy.
”Rook will do.”
”Sounds good.” Jeremy cleared his throat. “Rook, I swear to God, you’re gonna be locked up so deep they won’t discover you for a hundred thousand fuckin’ years.”
”And you will put your friends in danger,” Rook shot back, unperturbed.
Hailey glanced up at Jeremy. “What does she mean?”
”She has blackmail with a lawyer,” said Cinza. “Details about the Greywood… and about our youngest friend.”
”…You wouldn’t,” said Hailey, whipping back around to Rook. “She’s thirteen! She’s just a kid!”
”Wait,” said Jeremy. “I thought she didn’—”
”She was in Rallsburg,” said Hailey. “She knows everybody who was there, and if she doesn’t, Viper knew them.”
Cinza’s eyes narrowed. Her voice echoed with suppressed rage of her own. “We will end you,” she snarled. “You wrestle with forces beyond your comprehension.”
”I don’t fear you,” said Rook. “You are a child playing at power.”
Lily finally stood, stumbling a little as Makoto helped her forward. “I trust my sister arrived?” she asked, eyes not leaving Rook for a moment. She sounded surprisingly calm for someone who’d just been kidnapped and taken halfway across the world.
Jeremy nodded. “With your dad.”
”Ah.” Lily’s lip twitched slightly, the barest hint of a smile creasing her cheeks. “That should be… interesting.”
”Lily, are you all right?” asked Cinza.
”Quite fine, thank you,” said Lily, brushing dust off herself.
Rook’s eyes narrowed. “…You are the sister?”
A real smile finally broke on Lily’s face. “Indeed. Even if you’d escaped, you took the wrong one.”
To be fair, they’re literally the same fuckin’ person… Jeremy grinned in spite of himself. It was about time they got some kind of good news. “What was the plan?” he asked. “Grab the Brit and pick her apart for how this shit works?”
Rook ignored him. She looked at Cinza. “What happens now?” she asked again, though now without her hostage or her weapon. “You cannot kill me, unless you want your secrets exposed.”
”My secrets have been exposed before,” Cinza shot back. “I’ve survived.”
”But will your family?” The air in the room seemed to sharpen as Rook brought up her threat again. “Will she?”
”Last I checked, that girl had a fuckin’ pet hawk, and way more magic than everybody in this damn room,” said Jeremy. “…’cept maybe Hailey.”
Hailey shrugged. “Nah, I think she’s more powerful than me.” She glared at Rook. “Forget that though. Where the hell is Malton?”
Rook shook her head. “I don’t know.”
Before any of them could move, Hailey’s fist plowed into the wall next to Rook’s head. Concrete shattered and flecks of dust filled the air. She withdrew her hand in perfect health, though a huge gap remained in the wall.
”Where the hell is your boss?”
Rook’s eyes flicked over to the hole in the wall. She looked seriously unsettled, and she wasn’t the only one. Even Cinza seemed taken aback. Hailey couldn’t do that before… Jesus Christ. The fuck is she doing…?
”Hailey,” said Jeremy.
She rounded on him. “Jeremy, seriously… Don’t.”
Fucking hell. Jeremy shook his head. “She’s gone. You ain’t. Don’t take this too far.”
”They took it too far,” Hailey shot back. “They blew up a neighborhood. They kidnapped Ryan and Lily.” Lily opened her mouth to speak, but Hailey plowed on uninterrupted. “They killed Jessica.” She turned back to Rook, who seemed… confused? Jeremy couldn’t quite parse her. “Your men. His plan. They killed Jessica Silverdale. He’s going to answer for it.”
”By doing what?” Jeremy shot back. Against every instinct in his gut, Jeremy stepped in between Rook—bruised and seated against the wall, still eyeing the giant hole in the concrete next to her—and the fuming Hailey, whose hair was still fluttering around from the slight wind in the air. “Hailey, forget the blackmail, we’ve got her cold on kidnappin’, assault, a whole shitload of other crimes. She ain’t goin’ free.”
”She has to,” said Makoto.
The room seemed to shift at his words. Cinza looked around to her lieutenant, surprised. “Makoto?”
”She knows how the Greywood functions. I… I explained it to her.” He looked embarrassed, glancing away from them. “If her information goes free, we’ll be defenseless. Brian’s men have gotten near our border before. We’d have to devise new methods, fast, and I don’t know how effective they’d be.”
Cinza shook her head. “I can do it.”
”Can you?” Makoto frowned. “It took a lot out of you when we first designed the system. In your current condition—”
”Then Ruby will support me, and Yusuf, and everyone else!” Cinza roared. “I will not allow this monster to harm a single member of my family.” She glared at Rook, and spat on the ground at her feet. “Loose your filth, wretch. Play your cards. See what they accomplish. I would see you hang.”
Rook looked around to Hailey. “You want Malton?” she asked—and her voice quivered just slightly. Shit, is that panic?
”For what?” Jeremy asked, before anyone else could cut in.
Oh, shit. That’s a card to play. “We don’t have him,” said Hailey, not understanding.
Rook shook her head. “For his safety. You guarantee Viper and I safety and anonymity, you can have Malton.”
Cinza shook her head. “We will have him anyway.”
”With his attorneys? His fortune? His fame?” Rook smiled. “You will never be able to defeat him in the world’s arena, but if I am protected, I can give him to you.” She turned to Jeremy. “You are the only one who can negotiate this outcome. I speak to you.”
Jeremy shrugged. “Fuck-all is what I can do. I ain’t even supposed to be here.” Story of my damn life…
”I can,” said Lani, voice still shaking. His gun lowered to the ground. Rook didn’t move, of course—Hailey was still standing within inches of her, and with far more power than a gun in her hands—but she visibly relaxed a hair. “Riley, I can get you protection.”
…Fuckin’ hell, Lani…
Rook turned to him, and her voice shifted up a notch again. Jesus, she can do that fast. That’s fuckin’ terrifying. “Lani, you’re a great guy, but this is business, you know?”
”Yeah.” He frowned. “Business. I’m making that deal.”
”I’m still standing here,” growled Hailey. “I didn’t take any deal.”
”Nor did I,” said Cinza.
Lily spoke up, interrupting the parade of angry voices. “Before we proceed, what precisely does ‘giving us Malton’ entail?”
Good damn point. Jeremy looked back to Rook expectantly. She cleared her throat, still coughing out dust occasionally from Hailey’s explosive entrance. “I give you Malton.”
”Meanin’ what?” asked Jeremy. “Evidence on the motherfucker?”
”I didn’t come all this way just to get a story,” said Hailey.
Rook shook her head. “He is too dangerous. He should not be in a jail. I will provide his location, to the millimeter, and let you do what you want with him.”
That ain’t what I signed up for. Jeremy couldn’t let this go any further—but Hailey spoke first, before Jeremy could get a word in. “And in return,” she said slowly, “you leave, and you take Viper with you, and we never hear from you again?”
”And your blackmail remains dormant,” added Lily. “All forms of it.”
”I have no interest in your affairs,” said Rook. “This is my protection.” She glanced at Hailey, her eyes softening ever so slightly. “I would never have ordered a kill. Nor would Viper.”
Hailey shook her head. “Just tell me where Malton is. I don’t want to hear anything else.”
”Let me go, and I send it to you.”
Rook held up a hand. “Your magic allows you to find me, no matter where I am, yes? I ask for a symbolic gesture. I cannot escape so long as you have power.”
Jeremy jumped in. “Hailey, this ain’t a good idea…”
”She cannot be allowed to leave,” agreed Cinza. Finally, me and the damn witch are on the same page. “She must answer for this. If it must be their government, then it must, but we cannot allow this to stand.”
”There’s bigger fish,” said Hailey. “I don’t care about her. She wasn’t even there.”
”Yeah, because she was infiltratin’ your fuckin’ friends!” Jeremy shot back. “How’s that any better?”
”The fish rots from the head,” said Lani, nodding slightly. “Riley wants to help us take him down.” Rook smiled at him, a glimpse of the old Riley buried somewhere inside her. …Fuck you, bitch. Fuck. You.
Hailey turned to the group. “I’m letting her go.”
Jeremy took a step toward her. “Hailey—”
”I’m letting her go,” Hailey repeated, and a burst of wind whirled through the room like a mini-tornado. It only lasted a second, but it visibly buffeted everyone. Jeremy flinched, and Hailey kept talking. “Lani, you’ve got my number, right?” Lani nodded. “Okay. Take her out of here. As soon as you’re gone, she gives you the location, you text it to me. You stay with her and she keeps giving me info until I have him.” Hailey glanced back to Rook. “Agreed?”
Rook nodded, ice-blue eyes flashing, a fitting match for the chilly stone room they were all still stuck in. Jeremy shook his head in dismay, but he couldn’t think of anything that could dissuade Hailey—and he sure as hell couldn’t use force on her.
”Don’t do this,” Jeremy repeated.
Hailey looked at him, and there was so much fury filling her clear blue eyes. Her eyebrows sunk low on her face, halfway between pain and anger. She radiated so much sheer emotion that Jeremy couldn’t look her eye-to-eye. His face fell.
”He killed Jessica,” Hailey repeated, rage dripping from every syllable. “His men, his plan. I have to.”
”It ain’t your job.”
”Who’s going to do it?”
”The people selected their authority,” said Cinza. “You’re walking a dangerous path, Hailey.”
”They aren’t my people.” Hailey nodded to Lani. He picked Rook up by the arm, helping her to her feet. The pair left in a hurry, with Hailey standing in front of the door to prevent anyone following them. After a few minutes, she looked back to Jeremy. “I’m flying out now. Don’t try to stop me.”
”Hailey—” said Jeremy, but she was true to her word. A huge gust of wind filled the room, and Hailey lifted up into the air. A shift in the breeze and she swooped forward, straight back through the hole she’d created in the wall and out of sight.
Jeremy sighed. “Well… fuck.”
Cinza shook her head. “She is on the precipice. We cannot allow her to fall.”
”No shit,” Jeremy muttered. “I’m surprised you’re sayin’ it, though,” he added, glancing at Cinza. “You were all for dishin’ your own brand of justice before Hailey showed up.”
Silver-grey hair shimmered in the dim light of the chamber as Cinza shook her head. “This is no longer justice for an assassin who took one of our own. This is murder in broad daylight on a man tangentially responsible. Hailey must not harm Cornelius Malton.”
”Or what?” asked Makoto.
”She is the most visible awakened in the world,” said Lily. “If she does this, it will be a setback.”
”Understatement of the fuckin’ year,” said Jeremy. “‘The awakened are comin’ to kill us and overthrow the whole damn world.‘ Worse, there’s no way to tell who’s what. It’ll be chaos.”
”You really think Hailey would kill somebody?” asked Makoto.
Cinza hesitated, but Jeremy answered in her place. “She already did.” When they looked to him for further explanation, he sighed. “One of Malton’s guys, back in Lakewood. Put her fist through his damn face, smashed his skull like a cracker. I don’t think she realized it, but she’ll kill if she’s pushed over the edge—and that was after Jessica just got hurt.”
Cinza turned to Lily, fresh urgency in her tone. “Call your father. Get us a car, and a way to track Malton or Hailey. We must not lose her.”
Lily winced. “That… might be more difficult than you hope.”
Cinza shook her head. “You’re his daughter.”
”He’s never met me.”
”Trust me,” said Jeremy, “he ain’t gonna be disappointed.” He held out his phone. “I’m guessin’ you know the number, bein’ literally Kendra and all?”
Lily shook her head. “I’m only Kendra from the moment I was born.”
”Which was when, exactly?” asked Cinza. “If you don’t mind. I’m quite curious.”
”December the 28th.” Lily smiled slightly. “I turn one next month.”
Jeremy rolled his eyes. “No, you turned thirty-two in May, for Christ’s sake. Now make the damn call, we’re wastin’ time.”
Lily nodded. She took the phone and dialed, her fingers shaking. “…Yes, Collins? Please… yes, it’s me. Yes, I know. Please, I need to speak to my father, it’s urgent.” She sighed. “Yes, I’m aware you’re looking at me right now. Where is my father?”
In spite of everything, Jeremy grinned. Nice to not be on the confused end of a bizarre fuckin’ conversation for once. “Come on,” he added. “Let’s get back up top.”
They hurried out. The building was totally deserted as they went—Rook having ordered her men to depart without incident. Lily kept talking as they climbed the stairs back to the surface, where Lani’s car was long gone.
”Yes… Yes, father, it’s me. It’s… Look, it’s difficult to explain. Please… Please! Oh, hell—” she cut off, emotion creaking in her voice. Jeremy glanced back over his shoulder to see her dabbing at her eyes with a small cloth, produced from somewhere inside her dressing gown. “Hello, mother. It’s… good to hear from you again. Listen, I—yes, this is really your daughter.” Lily rolled her eyes, smiling again. “It’s a long story and I haven’t the time. I need your help.”
”…Fuckin’ hell,” Jeremy muttered.
Hailey cruised over London, shielding her eyes from the sunset while stream of pings bounced through her phone. Her other hand clutched a handful of gemstones—a variety pack, with all the colors of the rainbow that she could pick up from the Laushire estate. Thomas and Mary had let her take everything they had, down to their favorite jewelry. Really nice people, at the end of the day… Kendra was never that nice a teacher. A good teacher, but man, she was strict. I had to get so much help from Jessic—
She dropped a few feet in midair as her eyes clouded over. Hailey shook her head, hair flying wildly in the rushing wind as she straightened herself out with a few hard flaps of her wings. She wouldn’t let anything hold her back. She wouldn’t stop until he was brought to justice.
Her phone pinged again. Hailey glanced down—and there it was, finally. Not another message from Josh, Nikki, Rupert, Weston, or any of the other innumerable friends desperately trying to get in touch with her. It was from Lani, and it had an address attached, with coordinates—an estate outside London. Lani had included a note, presumably from Rook, that the place was likely heavily guarded and well-armed.
Yeah, but can they beat magic?
Hailey clipped her phone back on her belt and shifted her wings, tilting around to the north. A tip forward and she shot into a steady dive, gaining speed fast as she glided above the streets of London. Sirens pursued her—a small cavalry of flashing blue lights trailing her from below. I don’t want them to get hurt…
She climbed back up into the sky with a hard bank to the left, flapping hard to gain enough altitude to dip into the low cloud layer. A shield of swirling wind in front of her caught most of the water before it struck her, but she still felt a mist on her face as she burst through the first few clouds. Still, as Hailey looked down again, the police seemed to have scattered in the entirely wrong direction.
Hailey turned back to the north again, straight on target for Malton’s estate, where she’d do… what, exactly? What am I gonna do when I get there? If he’s got tons of armed guards, can I take that on? I can pull their guns, but… what if I get shot? Even Omega couldn’t just block bullets…
…except he could.
Hailey suddenly remembered a conversation between Josh and Nikki, from the funeral three days earlier. They’d been discussing defensive options for dealing with firearms, particularly from a range where telekinesis and other similar spells were of no use. Magnetics could be used to pull bullets off course, but Hailey couldn’t that due to her diffinity for Nature magic. She couldn’t hope to melt the bullets in mid-air either—with some math and the internet, Josh landed the required temperature well above the surface of the sun for the period of time between a bullet firing and hitting its target.
She was stuck with two options: either try to push the bullets aside with the strongest wind she could muster, or make herself so solid, so dense that she could just brush away the impacts like nothing, just like Omega’s golems and—presumably—himself.
Hailey went for both.
She couldn’t make herself invisible, and there wasn’t really a way to sneak into the place anyway, so she didn’t bother trying. She needed Malton, and he was right there. His mansion had wide, tall windows—exactly the sort of modern, fully exposed aesthetic she might have expected from a high-power CEO with absurd piles of cash available to him. Malton stood in the wide living room that overlooked the rolling hills out to the north, a phone to his ear. He was no doubt hearing about Rook’s betrayal already. Hailey didn’t have a second to waste.
Armed guards were posted on the corners of the roofs. They were quick, spotting Hailey flying out of the cloud layer in mere moments. Man, Alden, I wish you’d figured out how to explain lightning to me… Hailey grabbed at her favorite tourmaline stone, the very same one with which she’d first discovered gemstone power—when Jess helped me figure out how to double jump, and then how to fly…
With a shout of exertion which echoed through the hills, Hailey summoned the fiercest wind she’d ever created in her life. A sound like metal tearing apart shrieked across the whole Malton estate, deafeningly loud. Half of his guards doubled over, clutching their ears and ducking for cover. Hailey hadn’t expected that, but she wasn’t about to waste the opening.
Except… she didn’t have a choice. Gunshots rang out. Malton’s men had opened fire.
Here we go.
Hailey diverted the wind just slightly, though she didn’t let up on the relentless assault. Malton’s soldiers propped themselves against vents, pipes, walls—anything they could to stabilize themselves. One hapless man tumbled off the roof in the hurricane preceding her dive, thrown away by the wind and falling out of sight.
Bullets shrieked past. Most were off-target, and the few that came close were pushed just aside by the split gale of sheer wind Hailey threw at them. If anyone gets a really straight shot, though…
She grabbed at another gem in her hand, a malachite, while Malton’s house rushed up to meet her. Oh god, this is gonna hurt.
The gem evaporated between her fingers as Hailey forced energy into her jacket, altering its structure just enough—thickening the leather, layering it tighter and pushing it together to form a solid mass in front of her chest. The increased weight buckled her flight, and Hailey had to flap twice as hard to maintain the altitude of her dive or crash head-first into the walls of the mansion.
She was only a couple hundred feet away when it happened. One of Malton’s men finally got a straight shot—just before she was in range to take their guns.
It felt like somebody had taken a hammer and chisel directly to her chest and slammed it in as hard as they could. Hailey’s entire body flung backward, and she dropped twenty feet from the sky in an instant before her wings took hold and found the air again.
She was dazed and her vision blurry, but as Hailey looked down, there wasn’t a hole to be found. The makeshift bulletproof vest she’d turned her jacket into had held—just barely. There was a huge dent in the fake leather, and Hailey didn’t doubt for a second that she’d have a wicked bruise—maybe a broken rib or two, with how much it suddenly hurt to breathe—but she was alive.
Jessica got shot, more than once, by these people. She didn’t have anything to protect her.
Coughing, with blood filling her mouth from the chunk of her tongue she’d accidentally bitten off, Hailey swung in close to the roof. She was half-blind from pain, and working purely on instinct and the senses magic had given her. Malton’s men looked scared, but they were aiming for her. She had to do something.
Hailey shouted. It wasn’t anything specific. A pure expression of rage, of pain, of hatred. She wanted to hurt these people for what they’d done—and she could.
Her tourmaline stone cracked, its face turning to pitch as Hailey’s hurricane winds doubled over in force. The nearest of Malton’s men didn’t simply stumble and fall—they were hurled from the wide flat roof of the mansion. As Hailey landed on the surface, the others were blown away, unable to aim a weapon in her direction, or even look her way.
Hailey held out a hand and pulled. The guns flew to her, landing in a neat pile on the stone roof. She sent a burst of magic into her hand, strengthening it just as she had in the chamber with Rook, and punched straight down. The stack of pistols and rifles twisted underneath her, crushed into a useless heap, and the ceiling went along with it.
A huge piece of the roof collapsed inward. Hailey fell through, but her wings kept her straight and aloft with ease. The twisted pile of destroyed weapons landed amid the cloud of dust and debris on the handsome wooden landing just beneath. A few of the house staff that had been cowering in the hallway scrambled away from the sudden hole she’d created.
Another guard—one clearly less well-trained than the professionals on the roof—raised a quivering pistol. He was shaking so much, Hailey doubted he could hit her even without the gale of wind that had begun to swirl into the hall along with her. She shook her head, and with another quick pull, grabbed the pistol from his grip before he could do anything.
Time to use that huge voice I bothered learning. Hailey switched out the stone in her hand for a simple agate. It wasn’t really the right gem, but she had no idea what was best for making her voice twenty times louder than usual, so she made do. The little grey-brown stone cracked and shattered in her palm as she lifted her voice, punching the air over her vocal cords to a deafening degree.
Hailey’s throat shuddered and her ribs ached with pain as her voice echoed through the whole building, like a massive loudspeaker was pointed at the structure from every direction.
”Everybody who isn’t Cornelius Malton, get out of here. Right now.”
Jeremy tossed his phone back into his pocket as their car swung around the next curve. Makoto was keeping the thing under much better control. Apparently, he’d taken pointers from a few driving experts online during the flight from Tacoma, and was doing far better as a chase driver—even if he still managed to end up on the wrong side of the road every few turns.
”Left side, dammit!” Jeremy shouted as they careened through the empty streets. A police escort a few blocks ahead was clearing up roads as fast as they could, but Jeremy didn’t want to find out how bad their luck could get if Makoto took them down the wrong road. “Doesn’t Japan drive on the left?”
”I’ve only been there twice,” Makoto shot back, actually annoyed for once.
Cinza spoke up from the back seat, looking winded. “Have we confirmed it?”
”Yeah,” said Jeremy, “she went to Malton’s private estate. Motherfucker went there too. Guess he assumed we didn’t know he owned the place.” Jeremy frowned. “Why the fuck’s he in hidin’, anyway? Did he know Hailey was comin’ for him?”
”Maybe Rook warned him before we got to her,” said Cinza, frowning.
”She didn’t know Hailey was comin’ either!”
”I don’t know!” cried Cinza. “Does it matter? We have to stop her!”
Jeremy nodded, forcing his temper back under control with the breathing exercises they’d drummed into him. “…Okay.” He nodded. “So how the fuck do we stop her? You got anythin’ in your bag of tricks?”
”I’m too weak for strong magic,” said Cinza, “and she’s more powerful than all of us combined. We cannot hold her back.”
”So we just talk her down?” asked Jeremy. “Fuck-all that did.”
Jeremy’s phone rang. He snatched it up and answered without even blinking. “Talk to me.”
Maddie, of all people, was on the other end. “Hand the phone to Cinza, right now.”
Without a second thought, Jeremy passed it over. Give me a fuckin’ miracle, Maddie. Cinza took the phone, surprised. “Who is this?” she asked, a slight quiver in her echoey voice.
The engine whined as they sped up, while Cinza listened to whatever Maddie had to say. Jeremy wished he’d just put the damn thing on speaker, but Maddie hadn’t asked for that. Whatever was going on, he just had to hope his sisters back home had something good up their sleeves, because he was completely out of ideas. He just knew they had to get to Hailey, whatever it took.
”…The situation’s being broadcast live worldwide,” Cinza reported. She pointed up out of the window, where they could just barely see several helicopters flying in the same direction they were driving.
”Oh, fuck me,” Jeremy muttered. The fuck kind of miracle is that, Maddie?
”Your sister is in contact with President Stafford and… illuminated him on her contacts within the Awakened,” said Cinza slowly, a growing suspicion plain on her face. Oh shit… Did Maddie just tell her about Rachel? No, no way. This is somethin’ else. “She’s been asked to inform us that Hailey has been issued an international warrant for her arrest and extradition back to the United States.”
”Do they got any bright fuckin’ ideas on how to arrest her?” Jeremy asked, grabbing ahold of the handle above the door as Makoto took another sharp turn.
Malton’s estate was visible in the distance, up a long and winding driveway. The gate blocking the entrance had been blown off its hinges, and a small cadre of house staff and bodyguards were streaming away in every direction. Makoto had to slow down, else he’d plow through a half-dozen people fleeing in terror. Smoke and dust rose from the building in the distance, and Jeremy could just barely hear the sound of shattering glass and pops of gunfire.
Holy shit, Hailey…
Cinza smiled grimly. “The government has approved any action you might take to retrieve her, as a reinstated special agent of the Thaumaturgical division, and the British have granted you permission to act within their borders under official authority.”
”About fuckin’ time,” Jeremy growled. “Tell Maddie thanks for me.”
Cinza nodded, but her expression fell as she listened to the next few sentences. “…No,” she said finally.
”What?” asked Jeremy. Cinza held up a hand to forestall him. Makoto was weaving through people on the driveway, blaring the horn to get them to clear the narrow road.
”I will advise her as I see fit, and I will not disown her.” Cinza shook her head. “Don’t play politics with my family.”
Jesus Christ! Jeremy leaned back and snatched the phone from Cinza’s fingers. He only managed to catch a few words from Maddie, but it was plenty chilling.
”…creating a negative image for everyone. It’s best if she’s treated as an outlier and an outcast. Make it clear that you want nothing to do with her, and you’re bringing her in for public safety.”
”Fuck you, Maddie!” Jeremy snapped.
”Hailey’s my fucking friend too,” he growled—surprising himself with the indignation in his voice. How the fuck can you think like this, Maddie? “I’m not leavin’ her out for the damn wolves!”
”Jeremy, you don’t understand. The public’s terrified. A lot of people just got hurt in that house. If we show support for a girl who thinks she can fly around the world and do whatever the hell she—”
He dropped the phone, practically shoving his finger through the screen to end the call. Cinza looked up at him, and Jeremy nodded. “We’re gettin’ her back,” he said shortly.
Cinza nodded. “Yes.”
A huge bang. Her head pitched forward into the back of his seat, hard.
Makoto had spun the wheel and slammed on the brakes. The car squealed in protest as it skidded across the pavement. Jeremy spun around in his seat, squinting at the house—only to see a sleek black sedan speed past them. In the driver’s seat, a man with premature grey hair and a perpetual scowl, and seated next to him—
”That was Malton,” said Cinza, turning to watch the car speed off. “Makoto, follow that car.”
”But—” Makoto started, glancing up at the house.
No fuckin’ way Hailey’s stayin’ there when her prey just left. Jeremy’s fear was proven true an instant later, as the front of the house exploded outward. A vague figure shot out through the dust, swooping over their car and chasing after Malton.
”Follow that car,” Jeremy repeated.
Hailey slammed the bodyguard against the nearest wall with one hand. He crumpled, and didn’t try to get up a second time. She heard the engine start up somewhere beneath her, and heard it speed away a few seconds later.
He’s getting away!
She didn’t hesitate. Ignoring the other guard that had rushed into the room, Hailey ran for the front of the mansion. The front door was locked, but Hailey couldn’t be held back by something so small. She hurled a raw wall of force outward, and the door burst open—along with the frame. Another shower of dust, and the building shuddered in response.
I hope everybody listened and got out… Hailey didn’t have time to check, as the black sedan streaked down the road, passing a halted SUV in the long driveway as it did. The SUV turned to follow a few seconds later. More guards? How many does this guy have?
Hailey took off, ignoring the groans behind her. She shot down the driveway over the heads of the fleeing staff, following the car as fast as she could—but it was a powerful car, and she couldn’t keep up. Her only hope was to get some altitude, and cut it off at the corners in the city.
She started flapping, shattering another tourmaline in her hand to get up faster. The stone around her neck was charred black now, with cracks running all over its surface, and Hailey didn’t expect it to last much longer. She was burning through gemstones at a frightening rate, and she still didn’t have Malton in her grasp. The supply she’d taken from the Laushires and her own stash weren’t going to last forever, no matter how deep Kendra’s bag might be.
I can’t let him go. I can’t just let him get away with this.
Hailey felt her heart racing, the adrenaline still surging through her as she plummeted back into the streets of London, swinging around corners to keep up with Malton’s vehicle. The streets were oddly clear, with police blockades set up at regular intervals for reasons passing Hailey’s understanding. Malton’s car gained distance after every turn, while Hailey lost ground and the SUV behind her gained on her.
He’s going to get away, and they’re helping him do it. Of course they are. He’s rich, he’s powerful, he can do whatever he wants. The system will just bail him out, like it always does.
In desperation, Hailey threw a burst of fire at the vehicle, just as Rika had tried. It looked on-target—right until it dissipated into nothing in mid-air. Hailey tried again, with a full stream of fire powered by a ruby from her bag, and she felt it. Somebody was deflecting the flames. The reach of her magic was just far enough that she could feel another aura pressing back, choking out the fire she threw. Hailey switched to air, trying to cut at the tires as she had in Lakewood—and her wind ran into an invisible wall of force.
He’s got Viper in there. Malton might even be awakened himself. Viper probably got the Scrap Ryan lost back in Redmond. I’m up against other awakened this time, not just humans with guns. Now it’s guys with magic and guns. And he’s got more guys behind me. How am I supposed to win?
Hailey felt despair creeping into her. She kept beating her wings, kept flying and kept pace with Malton’s car, but a feeling of failure had started to build up in her heart. Malton was going to get away with it. He had the police on his side, he had some awakened on his side, he had the public on his side. Nobody knew who Jessica was, but everybody knew him. Malton could pay off whoever he liked, and he wasn’t anywhere near the guys who actually carried out his plans. He’d never get blamed. He was a billionaire. Hailey was just… some girl from Seattle.
Not just some girl. I’m Hailey Aurora Elizabeth Winscombe. I’m the Goddess of Kent. I’m friends with the most powerful person in the world. I’m one of the most powerful people in the world… and he killed my best friend.
Hailey shouted in rage again, as a fresh surge of adrenaline burst through her veins, blocking out the pain in her ribs. She wasn’t going to let him get away, no matter what it took, but her current approach wasn’t working. She flapped hard and got altitude again. If I can’t catch him, I’m going to make him come to me.
She kept flying forward, but as Hailey rose above the skyline, she scanned the roads ahead. Malton only had a few paths he could take, and only one that was cleared out by the police barricades as traffic built up around the other routes. The route twisted around enough that Hailey could beat him to the end, if she hurried.
Keeping the car in her sights, Hailey flew up and out. She crossed over onlooking crowds and people flooded the streets, phones raised in a sea of cameras tracking her every movement. Hailey didn’t care anymore. She wanted everybody to see this—to see what happened when somebody came after one of her friends.
She landed near the last turn, a short two-block space where Malton’s driver would have the shortest time to react. Hailey didn’t have any gemstones for what she wanted to do—she wasn’t even sure exactly what branch of magic it fell under—but she knew she had to stop the car. With the memory of golems bursting out of the pavement in her mind, Hailey opened her palms and began to lift, pulling straight up from the ground itself, creating new substance by taking the existing earth and stretching it outward.
Pipes and wiring tore as Hailey pulled straight up, new earth and solid rock forming out of the existing street in a dark imitation of the real thing. A huge wall emerged, four feet tall and spanning the whole length of the road from wall to wall. Hailey felt it pulling at her chest, harder than any magic she ever remembered. She was totally unfamiliar with this… It felt like elemental magic, but it was so much different from the air and fire she usually played with. She stumbled. Pain from the gunshot impact spiked in her ribs. Hailey was losing concentration—and suddenly the spell was loose.
A section of the wall burst outward, chunks flying out at the speed of bullets and striking the walls all around. Hailey felt the magic slipping from her grasp, and desperately tried to cling on as the spell broke free of her control. The earth itself was threatening to swallow her up, the street grabbing at her ankles as it grew around her.
Oh god. I can’t get trapped. I can’t be stuck on the ground. I… No!
Hailey plunged her hand into her bag, grabbing at every gemstone she could find. She hurled her mind back into the spell, forcing it to calm, shattering rock after rock as she wrestled the flailing energy back into her mind where it belonged. She finished the wall, as she intended it, and shattered the pillar of stone that had begun growing over her feet.
Breathing heavily, clutching at her aching side, she turned back to the street—just in time to see her prey fall right into her clutches.
As Malton’s car tore around the corner, Hailey greeted it with a grim smile. The street was curved up into a vertical slope, smashed together and impossible to traverse. She knew it, and the guy behind the wheel knew it too. The car slowed to a halt, only a block away. Hailey stepped over her makeshift barrier and walked forward, a ball of flame bursting to life in her hand almost subconsciously as she did.
The SUV pulled in behind them. Let his guards come. I got this. They can’t take me.
Malton got out of the car, and Viper got out of the driver seat. Perfect.
”Hey,” she called out. Malton glanced over at her, eyes narrowed. He was a pretty good looking guy, all things considered, but Hailey didn’t really notice. All she cared about was that she finally had him.
The SUV’s doors popped open. Jeremy got out, along with Cinza and Makoto. Hailey hesitated for just a moment, but her stride didn’t waver. If anything, this was a good thing for her. Malton seemed to recognize it too, as he turned to see himself completely trapped. There was nowhere to go.
Viper moved. His arm flew out, a massive burst of fire accompanying it. Hailey rolled her eyes. Attacking me with my own affinity? Seriously?
The aura of the inferno preceded it, like a familiar warmth Hailey knew so intimately it might as well be her own. She caught the flames with her mind, and didn’t even bother to dissipate them. She simply spun them back around, letting them join and double-up the strength of the orb still churning in her own palm. The heat on her skin grew tenfold, and sweat began to bead on her arms, but Hailey took it all in. She wanted to feel that pain.
She wanted to feel it, take it in, and give it to them.
”You’re Cornelius Malton, right?” Hailey shouted, though of course she knew exactly who he was.
He nodded slowly. “I don’t know you,” he called back.
Viper was still standing next to the SUV. He had a gun at his hip, and seemed to be debating going for it. Hailey decided to solve the dilemma for him. Still maintaining the growing orb of fire in her hand, she flung out her mind at the pistol—only to find his own mental grip holding it steady. Hailey tugged, but to her surprise, Viper held firm. He couldn’t get it out either, but neither of them could lay a real claim to it.
Hailey glanced at him, surprised. “Huh.”
Viper shrugged. “Makes two of us. Who the fuck are you?”
Her eyes narrowed. He doesn’t know? I mean, I didn’t think Malton would… but even the guy running the mission doesn’t know me?
”Hailey Winscombe,” said Malton. “I didn’t think you’d be working for her.”
…Do what now? “…For who?”
Malton frowned. “You aren’t here for her? To finish me off?”
”I’m here for Jessica Silverdale,” said Hailey, finally coming within only a few steps of the pair. She held the ball of flame up to the hood of Malton’s car, letting them watch the metal melt from proximity alone. “The girl you murdered in Lakewood.”
”I don’t even know who that—” Malton started, but Hailey cut him off.
”My best friend,” she snapped.
Before Malton could get in another word, she slammed him with a gust of wind, knocking him off his feet. Viper lunged forward, but Hailey held up the churning ball of flame—so superheated now it was like holding a ball of white lava—and the sheer heat drove him back. Only Hailey’s shielding of the fire kept her from bursting into flames herself, and in the meantime she was still holding Viper’s gun in its holster, and launching another gust of wind at Malton.
I can’t hold onto all of this… Something’s going to break.
”Hailey!” shouted Cinza. The girl cautiously approached the scene, swathed in her shimmering grey cloak, lit by the setting sun. Hailey looked up at her, with still Malton on the ground at her feet. Somehow, even down, the man still looked dignified. Hailey hated him a little more for that—she wanted him to be humiliated, to cower, feel the weight of what he’d done and show remorse.
”Hailey, back the fuck off!” shouted Jeremy, only a couple steps behind the girl. Makoto was back by the car, watching from a distance—and far behind, Hailey finally noticed the gathering crowd. Cameras, people, helicopters, the works. Everybody was watching. Everyone saw.
She could tell the world.
”No,” she replied.
”…No?” asked Jeremy, raising an eyebrow. “Hailey, this isn’t the right call. You gotta back down.”
”He killed her.”
”I don’t even know who that is,” shouted Malton, surprisingly calm even with his back almost flat on the ground and his clothing fluttering wildly in the gust.
”Hailey… you’re expending too much energy,” said Cinza. Hailey realized the girl’s aura was probing her spells—a light touch at the edge of the fire, the flurry of wind still pressing Malton to the ground, even the ongoing mental war between herself and Viper. “This is moving beyond your control.”
”I can take two guys,” Hailey shot back.
”That fire you’re holding,” said Cinza, nodding at her hand. “Why are you still holding it?”
”I…” Hailey trailed off.
Why was she still holding it? She didn’t exactly need it to intimidate them… but she couldn’t let go of it. It was too much, too hot. The sheer amount of energy gathered there was beyond anything she’d ever conceived… and she didn’t have control anymore. It was growing beyond her. She still fed it energy, but only to keep from losing control. It was an inferno threatening to explode with the force of a supernova.
”…I can’t,” she whispered.
”…The fuck?” asked Jeremy, glancing at Cinza with a worried expression.
”Hailey pushed too much power into it, got distracted and lost the original spell,” said Cinza. “She doesn’t have control. She’s holding it together by the thinnest of nets. If she loses concentration, it will explode.”
”And do what?”
”Kill us all, I imagine, and probably everyone within a few blocks,” said Cinza, “if not much further. I’ve no idea how strong it is. My own senses were overwhelmed just looking at it.” She tried to sound calm, but even Hailey—as suddenly overwhelmed as she felt—didn’t miss the quaver in her echoing voice. Cinza was terrified. Of her.
”But what about the rule?” asked Jeremy. “Whatever-the-fuck… Mason. Mason’s Law. She can’t hurt us.”
Cinza shook her head. “It’s no longer her spell. It’s raw energy, and far more than should be contained in such a space.” She took a step forward, around Malton and toward Hailey. “Hailey…” she said softly.
Oh god… what am I doing? I… I need to… focus.
I need to take him down.
Hailey’s eyes locked back on Malton, still stuck on the ground beneath her. He didn’t seem so self-assured anymore. “You ordered a mission, right?” she growled.
”W-what?” Malton’s eyes drifted to the swirling ball of energy now pulsating in Hailey’s hand. It seemed to be getting hotter, if anything, and Hailey was doing everything in her power to keep it under control. She let go of the gust of wind on Malton to conserve some energy, though she still held Viper in check with her other spell.
Hailey raised her voice, so that the whole world could hear her. “Redmond, Washington. You ordered this man—” Hailey jerked her head sideways at Viper, who stood stock-still, glaring at her. “—to try and kidnap an Awakened and bring them back here. To cut them open. Just like you did in Rallsburg.”
A faint gasp from the crowd. Hailey had their attention.
”Nonsense,” said Malton. “This is ridiculous.”
”Hailey, this is a bad idea,” said Cinza. “You need to calm down.” She took another step forward.
Hailey snapped her head up to meet Cinza’s eyes—small, dark brown, with that guarded air that Hailey had never quite liked. “I’m calm,” Hailey shot back. “I’m telling the world what he did, so they know why he deserves exactly what’s coming to him.”
”That’s what the fuckin’ courts are for,” said Jeremy, taking a step forward himself. “Let the motherfucker stand trial.”
”And get off easy?” Hailey cried. “You know he won’t get linked to a single thing. The courts haven’t been worth anything in decades. It’ll be a scandal for just a few weeks, and everybody will forget. He’ll go back to his normal life as one of the richest people on the whole planet.”
”You don’t know that,” said Jeremy.
”Yeah, I do,” said Hailey bitterly. Mom said it, we’re in a post-scandal world. Nobody’s gonna care. Nobody will remember what he did. Jessica’s… oh god. The ball of fire pulsed dangerously in her hand. Everyone winced, but Hailey quickly got it under control. “You know what they told me?” she asked.
”…No?” Jeremy shook his head. “Hailey, what the fuck is going on?”
”They told me to go make a difference,” said Hailey. And I screwed it up, but I’m going to make up for it. I’ve got the real guy here now. “This is the difference. I’m not going to leave it up to the courts to handle crimes they don’t understand yet.”
”She was shot,” Jeremy shouted, anger rising in his own voice. “We know how to fuckin’ handle that.” He shook his head. “What are you gonna do, Hailey? Kill him? What’s that gonna help?” He nodded at the crowd. “The whole world is watchin’, girl. You’re Hailey-goddamn-Winscombe. If you kill him, that’s the game. He wins.”
Hailey could hear sirens. The London Police were surrounding the area. She glanced up at the line of onlookers, as the officers and tactical teams fought their way to the front past the sea of cameras. Cinza turned around, and her voice amplified by an order of magnitude. “Stay back!”
The entire crowd halted in its tracks. Every officer froze in place. A few in the rear turned and ran.
…I’m scaring them. “…I can’t just let him go,” said Hailey finally, looking at Jeremy. “He killed her.”
Jeremy nodded. “We ain’t gonna. I promise you that.”
”Hailey,” said Cinza, her voice returned to normal volume, “you’ve gone too far. You’ve endangered this entire city. Let me help you.”
Hailey coughed. Her throat was beginning to seize up from the strain. Her muscles and bones ached. She nodded slowly. “…Please,” she gasped.
Cinza walked forward. Jeremy drew his pistol, training his aim right on Malton’s head. Malton looked around. “I haven’t done anything,” he protested.
”Fuck off,” Jeremy growled. He put a foot onto Malton’s shoulder and forced him back to the ground, holding him steady. His gun switched to Viper in an instant, before the mercenary could voice a word of protest. “Move a muscle and you’re fucked, asshole.”
The flames in Hailey’s hand were bubbling over, like boiling water trapped and about to burst. She could feel the sheer amount of power packed inside, from her own efforts and the energy she’d taken from Viper’s attacks. Visions of backfiring spells flooded her mind: Jenny Wilson and Alex Nelson in the R.V., bisected. Cinza herself, only barely avoiding catastrophe from the magnetic ritual to kill Omega.
Hailey felt real fear now, a quiver through her spine and moisture in her eyes. She held out her left hand, and took Cinza’s firmly. The smaller girl’s hand was tiny in her own, but Hailey could feel Cinza’s essence flooding through the surface of her skin, ready to break free in an instant if only it could find a place to flow.
”Help me,” Hailey whispered. Because I couldn’t help her. Please.
Cinza nodded. Hailey reached out, and Cinza’s aura met her. She let all the energy she could release flow forth, and Cinza took it in. Her eyes closed tight, and her concentration shifted. The aura shifted around, and Hailey felt herself pulled back toward the churning energy. Together, she and Cinza grasped at the edges of it.
Little by little, they drained it away. Hailey couldn’t tell where it was going, but Cinza seemed to have a plan, and Hailey simply let her take charge. The heat dissipated, and the orb dimmed, until finally—after several minutes of painstaking work—the flames hissed and sputtered into nothingness.
Jeremy let out a huge sigh of relief. “Fuckin’ magic,” he muttered.
Cinza smiled, opening her eyes again. “Thank you.”
”…For what?” Hailey whispered, while her brain threatened to collapse in on itself. She felt like she’d just run a marathon. Every bone ached, her lungs hurt, her head spun. Her wings refused to do more than tired stretching, not even a flutter. Her magic felt so far away, when only minutes before she was at the height of her power. Wait… “Did you… take it somehow?”
Cinza shook her head. “I don’t think that’s possible. No, I wanted to thank you for letting me in.” She bowed slightly. “It’s a true privilege to experience magic such as yours.”
To Hailey’s relief, she could feel it beginning to recover already—the swirling wind that would grow back into a tornado, little by little. She nodded. “Thanks.” As one, the three of them glared back down at Malton. Hailey was the first to speak. “You’re going to confess.”
”To what?” he asked.
”Kidnappin’, conspiracy, murder, whatever fuckin’ charges I like,” said Jeremy. “Unless you want to get dragged through a trial for the next couple years, which I guar-fuckin’-tee you’ll lose.”
Malton shook his head. “You can’t. I have rights, and I’m the victim here. How do you think it’s going to look? Three foreigners—” He paused, eyeing Cinza’s silver-grey robes with a raised eyebrow “—assaulting and dragging away one of Her Majesty’s subjects in broad daylight? You assaulted my staff and destroyed my home. They won’t let this stand. You’re mad.”
”Three foreigners?” Cinza laughed. “Trust me, Cornelius, every single one of us is more famous and powerful than you are.”
Jeremy shook his head. “Fuck no I ain’t.”
”…More famous, then,” Cinza amended. Jeremy shrugged. Cinza continued, her voice dripping with disgust for the man sprawled on the ground beneath them. “Let me demonstrate for you.” She nodded to Hailey. “Would you mind?”
Hailey bent down, and with only a little bit of magic to assist her, pulled Malton to his feet. She pushed him along, limping after Cinza toward the wide array of news crews and police watching from the sidelines. Jeremy called Makoto over to keep an eye on Viper after disarming him, then followed the other two in a hurry. He rejoined them just as they reached the line.
Cinza raised her hands for silence. Her ethereal voice could be heard loud and clear across the entire crowd. “My name is Cinza.”
With those four words, Cinza had their absolute attention. The whole crowd fell completely silent, hanging onto every word. “I am the author of the so-called Diaries, which were taken from me by Nathaniel Price and sold to the highest bidder. Every word in them is by my hand, but I would have you speak to me rather than hear stolen thoughts borne of greed and betrayal.”
She turned, gesturing in a wide stance to Malton, whom Hailey still held tight next to her. “This man, Cornelius Malton, is responsible for the events in Lakewood, Washington. His subordinates carried out orders on his behalf to abduct one of our own, and in doing so, provoked a response from the real threat lurking among us.”
Cinza cleared her throat, and nodded at Hailey to step aside while she took the center. Hailey did so, her mind numb, still reeling from what she’d almost done. She couldn’t think, couldn’t focus. The whole world might as well have been a vague blur around her, except for Cinza’s piercing, echoey voice.
”There is a man in the forests near Rallsburg. His name is Brian Hendricks. He has called would-be crusaders to his side in an attempt to slaughter us, to a child. The golems of Tacoma were his. The golems of Lakewood were his. The responsibility for this mess lies with Brian Hendricks, and with Cornelius Malton. I present them to you.”
Jeremy was itching forward now, muttering under his breath. “…Cinza, we were goin’ to put them on trial,” he hissed. “This ain’t right.”
She turned to him, and her voice didn’t drop a single decibel. “This is their trial. These people are the court. I present the facts, and the world may do as they see fit.” Cinza turned back to the cameras, but even Hailey felt some misgivings now. This is insane… I mean, I want Malton to be punished but… this is like, mob rule. “I didn’t come here to talk to you today. I came here from the Greywood because my sister in magic, Hailey Winscombe, was in pain and needed my help. Her best friend in the whole world was murdered: a young woman named Jessica Silverdale.”
Hailey winced at Jessica’s name. Cinza… what are you doing?
”Jessica Silverdale,” Cinza repeated firmly, while a dozen reporters took notes, cameras flashed, and the whole world waited with baited breath. “Remember her name. Cornelius Malton’s men shot her dead in the streets in Lakewood, for the crime of trying to save someone’s life. She never harmed a soul, and yet she was murdered in cold blood by ruthless men looking to control magic for their own profit.” Cinza spat the final word on the ground, her ire tangible. “Jessica Silverdale. Remember that name, for she was a true hero.
”There is evil in this world, and we will not stand by while thieves in the night and cowards of fortune seek to erase our very existence. Men like Cornelius Malton, men like Brian Hendricks, and any soul who would join the genocidal crusade against my people: take heed. You have seen what we can do. Even a man at the top of your world cannot escape justice if we seek it. If you come, we will defend ourselves.”
Cinza turned to the nearest police officer. “Take him,” she said, nodding to Malton. “The Greywood relinquishes any claim on his fate. Do what you will with him.”
Nobody moved. The officer Cinza had chosen took a nervous step forward. Cinza turned, cloak sweeping wide behind her, and walked away without looking back. Hailey, after some reluctance, let go of Malton and limped after her, while her adrenaline faded and the pain of the gunshot really started to set in. Jeremy caught up a few moments later, Makoto right behind him. A low murmur filled the crowd, but Hailey couldn’t tell at all what the reaction was like.
Yet again, in front of the cameras and crowds, Hailey felt like she’d been completely blindsided—only this time, it had come from the girl standing next to her, someone she’d considered a friend.
”Cinza, what the fuck was that?” Jeremy hissed, quietly enough that no one would overhear.
Cinza smiled grimly. “A declaration of war.”